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Toa o le Tai Ocean Heroes Lifeguard Competition: “finding your spot in the ocean”

Fifty-two people were part of a first event of its kind last Saturday May 19, at Utulei Beach Park. The Toa o le Tai Ocean Heroes, Lifeguard Competition, a part of the Bruckner Chase Toa o le Tai Ocean Heroes Youth Program, had old and young alike, with the youngest being 12 years old, competing in lifeguard events.

Following each event, every participant received a Toa o le Tai Ocean Heroes Dog Tag and a Blue Ribbon. There was no 1st, 2nd or 3rd place ceremony for the top finishers. “It is not about finishing 1st, 2nd or 3rd, but about finding your spot in the ocean,” said Chase. The 52 participants were from Toa o le Tai, Department of Public Safety Marine Patrol Unit and members of the public, that wanted to come out and try their hand at this event, the first of its kind here.

Special guest was Gov. Togiola Tulafono, where he was presented with an official Toa o le Tai Ocean Heroes Dog Tag and Blue Ribbon. “I can tell you that today, I can hardly believe what I am seeing,” said Togiola.

On speaking about Chase, the governor said, “I think the inspiration, that you have left with us, is going to transcend all that we have here and Toa o le Tai has come to be a part of us. The one request that I made of you last year was to re-train these children to be safer in the water, so that they can teach our young people how to take care of themselves in the water and enjoy it, in a safe way. You delivered more than what I have ever envisioned and I thank you and Michelle very much.”

There were three other special awards that were given out to Toa o le Tai Ocean Heroes members:

Dedication and Inspirational Award--Zero Iaulualo

Spirit of the Toa o le Tai   -- Warren Sevaatasi and Christina Pulu

“It is not always the fastest, it is not always the strongest, but it is the person that embodies the phrase that we feel is what we want to communicate, which is the passion to care, the strength to act and the vision to inspire,” said Chase about Sevaatasi and Pulu.

“I never imagined how amazing this could turn out. This is absolutely incredible. This Fa’a Samoa. This is us taking a place in the ocean, protecting our community and protecting the waters around us. The ocean is part of us and we are definitely part of the ocean,” said Chase to Samoa News.

Graham Parker, who is a professional lifeguard in Ocean City, New Jersey, and has been on island since April 29, to help out with the Toa o le Tai — the historic relay swim last week and the lifeguard competition — talked to Samoa News about the role of the lifeguard in ‘guarding the ocean’.

“I felt that today’s event went really well. The people that were here got to see the different events that lifeguards do,” said Parker. “I think they saw how tough guarding the ocean can be. These events back to back are very grueling, but when you are responsible for guarding people’s lives, you can have rescue, upon rescue, upon rescue and you have to be prepared for that and on call all of the time. The events relate to the job that you actually do as a public safety professional or as a lifeguard. Being able to come down here and to begin to foster their skills and develop the mindset of respecting and being involved with the ocean is a great thing.”

The events for each participant included:

*   200 yard swim

*   500 yard swim

*   Rescue swims: (2) competitors: Athlete-1 swam 200 yards to a flag. Athlete-2 then swam to the flag with a rescue can, where each returned to the shore together

*   500 yard Paddle-board Races

*   Paddle Pick Up: (2) competitors: Athlete-1 swam 200 yards to a flag. Athlete-2 paddled a rescue board to the victim, where they both mounted the board and returned

*   Ironguard Solo: a solo 200 yard run, 200 yard swim and 500 yard paddle-board leg

*   Ironguard Relay: (3) competitors: Each one covering one leg of the Ironguard course

The Toa o le Tai Ocean Heroes Youth Program, is in partnership with the Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Public Safety and Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary.